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Book Summaries Psychology

Law 11: Know Your Limits (The Laws of Human Nature)

The Law of Grandiosity

Grandiosity is a feeling we have when we are children, it is a feeling of invulnerability, but as we grow older, we realize that we have many limitations. It is best not to downplay the role of luck in our success, and to always stay grounded.

Signs of Grandiosity

Too much grandiosity can be identified. Does the person turn away when you speak to them about yourself? Do they not pay attention unless the conversation is about them? Do they want to show off their accomplishments constantly – taking credit for the hard work and never being thankful for the guidance or circumstances that helped them along the way? Do they speak about their future exploits so confidently? Do they feel that everything they create must be cherished and valued?

The grandiose types vary but what unites them all is the lack of humility that any normal person exhibits. If they cannot laugh at themselves or acknowledge their own limitations then you know that they’re putting on a show. Grandiose people see you as an extension of themselves. You are merely an instrument in their master plot. A tool that is disposable. You are not important to them unless you can be useful to their ambitions.

The Grandiose Child

The feeling of grandiosity is something that we try to recapture from our youth when we felt invulnerable, before reality showed us how weak and fragile we actually are. Sometimes, the coddled child never has this rude awakening and they continue to feel invulnerable – if they had parents that gave them everything they wanted.

They feel that they were destined for success and if they are talented, they are likely to achieve it. This propagates the myth even further. The balloon will continue to inflate until it doesn’t and often, this is what happens to the spoiled type. Their parents shielded them from the harshness of life, when they discover later on how limited and insignificant they are, they are hit by a crisis that has a lasting effect on them. They are brought back down to earth.

It is always important to stay grounded, humble and thankful for any of your accomplishments, to never take for granted the role of luck. This will keep you alert, it will allow you to focus on your work. You must understand that you cannot be anything you want to be. You have limitations. There are certain subjects that attract you, there are skills that you naturally possess.

By being realistic with yourself and understanding your weaknesses and vulnerability, you will not stray too far from your concrete, achievable goals, and you will be more content with the results – even if they are not ideal. You will demand less in the short run. And this will all culminate in eventual mastery,  your success will be much more likely to occur in the long run, because you had the patience to persist. .

Beware of your hopelessly grandiose friends, who have are too self centered. They will waste your time and energy. They will require too much attention to be invested into their problems, and if you are too nice and accommodating, you will find yourself being swept away by their charm, and putting their needs above yours.

Be scrupulous, discriminate between people who want what’s best for you, who want to share in your victories and care about your well being, from those who merely see you as an instrument.

Then, overwhelmed by the afflictions I suffered in connection with my sons, I sent again and inquired of the god what I should do to pass the rest of my life most happily; and he answered me: “Knowing thyself, O Croesus—thus shall you live and be happy.” . . . [But] spoiled by the wealth I had and by those who were begging me to become their leader, by the gifts they gave me and by the people who flattered me, saying that if I would consent to take command they would all obey me and I should be the greatest of men—puffed up by such words, when all the princes round about chose me to be their leader in the war, I accepted the command, deeming myself fit to be the greatest; but, as it seems, I did not know myself. For I thought I was capable of carrying on war against you; but I was no match for you. . . . Therefore, as I was thus without knowledge, I have my just deserts.

Xenophon, The Education of Cyrus

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2 replies on “Law 11: Know Your Limits (The Laws of Human Nature)”

Silence may be easily misinterpreted. Therefore, although it is definitive, it may not be communicative.

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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